Abul Kalam, 70, a survivor of the Pinak-6 disaster, breaks down in tears while talking to reporters at Padma Rest House in Mawa yesterday. He came to narrate his ordeal before a probe committee. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq
Abul Kalam had never surprised himself more. Nine days after the capsize of Pinak-6, the septuagenarian man found it difficult to believe he was still alive and could talk and move like any other living person.
"It is only Allah who protected me and gave me a new life again," said Kalam, who survived the tragic launch accident in Padma.
Kalam, who was going through severe trauma, burst into tears as the harrowing memory of his struggle against the mighty waves of the Padma flashed through his mind.
He was returning to Dhaka from his village home at Rajoir in Madaripur district after having enjoyed the Eid holidays. The launch was jam-packed with passengers and it was swaying dangerously due to heavy currents and wild winds.
"I was sitting on the lower deck. Just a few minutes before the accident, I came to the upper deck. Suddenly a large wave hit the launch and water flowed into the vessel. Sensing the situation was getting worse, I stood beside the driver's room," he said, his shrunken face shaking all the while.
"A few moments later, the launch started to sink as another large wave hit it. I saw the driver jump into the river. I also jumped and remained afloat for some time. In a few minutes, I felt I was drowning and water was entering through my mouth and nostrils," said Kalam, who was rescued later by a speedboat. Kalam was talking to The Daily Star after making a deposition before the probe committee formed under the shipping ministry to investigate the accident at Mawa.
The double-decker passenger carrier vessel Pinak-6, which was on its way to Mawa from Kawrakandi, sank in the strong currents of the Padma around 11:00am on August 4. It was carrying more than 200 passengers against a capacity of 85.
The probe committee yesterday took depositions of around 15 survivors and eye-witnesses at Mawa in Munshiganj and Kawrakandi in Madaripur.
Another survivor Beauty Akhter, 45, said she and her daughter Ishrat Jahan Meem, 12, were sitting on the lower deck.
"After the launch was hit by waves, I tightly held my daughter. While the launch went under water, I do not remember how my daughter became separated from me," she said. She found her daughter's body four days later.
Beauty Akhter, who lost her daughter Meem in the Pinka-6 launch capsize in the Padma, bursts into tears while talking to newsmen at Padma Rest House in Mawa yesterday. She came from Gazipur to testify before a probe committee. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq
Talking to reporters at a government rest house at Mawa, the seven-member probe committee chief Nur-ur-Rahman told reporters the inquiry team was trying to find out the actual reason behind the accident.
Almost all of the interviewees said the accident mainly occurred due to overloading and rough weather, a probe body member told The Daily Star.
After an eight-day search, the government on Monday suspended the operation and declared the launch abandoned, disappointing the families of the missing.
Meanwhile, many aggrieved relatives of the missing people were seen waiting at the Pachchar Government Primary School and the police information centre in Madaripur. They were expressing their frustration and anger at the government over its failure to recover the sunken launch.
Police yesterday recovered two more bodies from Kawnia of Barisal and Shakhipur of Shariatpur. The dead, however, could not be identified.
With the two, the death toll has risen to 48 while 62 still remain missing. The newly found bodies will be brought to Pachchar Primary Govt Primary School in Madaripur tomorrow, said Kutubur Rahman, assistant superintendent of police in Munshiganj.
(Our Munshiganj correspondent contributed to this report).